George S. Patton once came upon a dying man at the 15th Evacuation Hospital at Sant’ Agata during the Sicilian invasion. He sparked a cigarette and placed it in the young soldier’s mouth. He smacked a shell-shocked trooper for cowardice moments later.
The slap surely would have ended Patton’s career were he serving in today’s Army. The act of comfort to the dying man probably would as well.
The Department of Defense is trying to extinguish the cigarettes of our nation’s servicemen. The War on Terror reversed some of the gains in the fight against tobacco as smoking rates jumped 13 percent following 9/11. Troops are 50 percent more likely than the general population to smoke and are four times more likely to use smokeless tobacco.
Acting U.S. Surgeon General Rear Adm. Boris Lushniak declared in December that the fight against tobacco is America’s longest war. Lushniak, a self-described “avid long-distance bicyclist, runner, hiker, and kayaker”, told the Association of Military Surgeons that eliminating tobacco among the ranks was a top priority.
“We still have a mission when it comes to tobacco, which is eradication, and that mission is obtainable,” he said.